It was a goal I just had to achieve, 10 consecutive Burnie 10’s
It all began early in 2007 – life had thrown me a massive curveball and just like that things went from secure and comfortable to frighteningly unknown. I found myself virtually a single parent of a 2 and 5 year old with not a whole lot else going on in my life. I turned 30, got a new job and with what can only be described as endless support and energy from another of my (many) amazing sisters, decided to run a 10km race – the Burnie 10, together with her.
This race was one of the first major middle distance road races in Tasmania of the type that attracted big numbers and elites to race it. Located on the North West Coast of Tasmania, Burnie is situated perfectly to either be copping the brunt of the west coast wild weather, or the more mile climate of a coastal town. Either way, it is an out-and-back 10km on the road and, at that point for me, a little daunting.
At the time I decided to undertake this, my ‘training’ was squeezing in nightly 30 minute flat out stints on a rickety, surely-not-to-Australian-Safety-Standards elliptical cross trainer, after kids were in bed.
My sister and I kept each other informed of our progress and when she told me she was going to do a practice 10k run on her local oval in Melbourne, the reality of this hit me. 10km – that’s 25 laps! Until this point I had been inside 95% of the time on this rickshaw of a trainer and the furthest I had actually run was about 3km! I decided I’d better do something similar in the lead up to the race and 2 weeks out scheduled an 8.5km run.
I had no way to measure my distance, apart from tracking a path on Google earth (somewhat accurate) and then timing myself on a Polar stopwatch. The training run was a success – in other words, I survived and made it home,
We fronted up to the start line of 2007’s Burnie 10. About 3500 people participated that day. The weather was overcast, 19 degrees and not a breath of wind – Burnie was channelling its calmer coastal town weather. Till now, that had been the best race conditions I’d experienced for this race. We ran together in step the whole way and finished in a very respectable time of 50:09.
And that could have been it. Goal achieved. But no, that’s not really me. I wanted more. I needed more.
Soon after, I told myself I wanted to complete 10 consecutive Burnie 10s, and last Sunday I accomplished just that.
The day dawned sunny – the first one we’ve had in some time. A good start. Race start time is relatively late at 11:15am so I had plenty of time for a good breakfast of my usual oats and a generally relaxing morning, with not too many nerves to speak of – but I did start to get butterflies as I pulled on the Runphoria top to race in it for the very first time. And although I was missing Gabby competing with me (cue NYC marathon in 2 weeks!!), I couldn’t wait to get it out there!
Due to other commitments, I was taking on race day without the usual family support crew, which I really missed hearing call out from the sidelines; but the great friends I travelled with made it an enjoyable day just the same.
Once we arrived, we headed around the streets of Burnie for a 2k warm up – quickly cementing the fact that there would be no need for long sleeves for this race. The warm up felt good – legs were loose and I felt fresh after the previous day’s 7k shakeout at parkrun. I was relaxed and happy. After the warmup, we headed back to the car. It was about 45mins to start time, but we wanted to line up with plenty of time to spare so stripped off, grabbed my caffeine gel and a disposable water bottle and headed back to the start area. I planned to take the gel about half an hour prior to start time – figuring this was just enough time to get it into the system pre-race.
I’ve never come up with just one thing that works perfectly every time for me on race mornings for 10km. Sometimes I’ve had a short black and run the race of my life, other times had the same and struggled badly for the last 4kms. This year, experience told me some caffeine would be useful, and having success in taking the Shotz gels (containing 80mg caffeine) I decided this would be the way to go. I wasn’t feeling like I needed a boost, but I knew there’d be a point in the race where I was happy to have those pain receptors in the brain dulled somewhat!
I lined up around 15m behind the start line, – it always feels too close to those elite runners, but with a field estimated at around 2000 I knew it would be harder to get out cleanly if we were further back, so we were nicely placed to avoid prams and teams of walkers.The gun went off and we were away.
The first kilometre is always mayhem – people duck and weave in and out trying to find their perfect path through a crowd, and with a decent downhill to begin with, it’s a case of flying down the hill and simply avoiding tripping over.
There wasn’t a hint of a running rhythm for me until well into the second kilometre, when you get a sense that the field settles down and people find their pace. This course hugs the coastline headed east out of Burnie. We get a single lane of a dual lane highway and at this point, it’s plenty of space. It’s a little unnerving when 3 semi-trailers in a row pass on my left, just a metre or so away from me, but as long as they stay on their side of the witches hats, I’m okay. From the 2km point, you can see the course laid out in front of you – you can see how far to the turn and from there, you’ll be able to see where you’ve got to return to. Looking in the distance at that point, I could see the flashing lights of the police bike travelling with the race leaders and the speed of those elite runners never fails to impress me.
At the 4km mark, I notice that I’m tired – the body is fine – there’s no fatigue anywhere I can feel, but my breathing is laboured. I’ve had a broken training program all winter with a couple of illnesses, and here is where I could feel the effects of inconsistent training – particularly lack of endurance. There’s also the fact that after 3.5km, you have a deceptively steady climb to the turn. The course is not flat – there is a total of 96m of climbing, but they are very long gradual rises and give you a false sense that they are in fact flat, so you run as though they are…and get tired.
I keep running and turn with an average pace for the first 5k of 4:10 per km. I’m ahead of my goal of 4:18, but it is hard, and I know the next 5km will be harder.
Having run this course plenty of times, my nemesis of this race is kms 7-9.
Immediately after the turn, you get a little downhill to match what you just came up, but the road is dual carriageway and the two sides do not follow the same path exactly, meaning that after about 400m of downhill, the reprieve is over and it flattens out and once again you’re running hard. Although I’m running slower at this point, averaging 4:25 per km, I’m happy that my pace feels fairly consistent through those hard kms and the group I’m with is staying largely the same.
My run group is made up of mostly males. There’s Bob who seems to know everyone and everyone seems to know him both on and off the course – including even the brass band on the sidelines; and so has spent most of the race with his hand raised, waving or calling out. There are two more guys who I’m more or less in step with the whole way. Thankfully neither of them are surging forward or trying to race me so it makes it easier to stay in a rhythm with them. And there’s the guy sitting just in front of me who is running solidly, but whose Skins keep falling down, so every 50m or so, I see way more superhero patterned undies than I need to as he hikes them up – yet again. It’s eventually gets to be too much for me – and Bob feels the same, it seems – as when Skins guy hesitates a little too long readjusting himself, Bob and I take the opportunity to move past.
At around 7km, I check the average pace on my Suunto and it shows I’m back to 4:20 per k. My goal of averaging 4:18 (giving me a finishing time of 43mins) is proving difficult and this part of the race is the hardest.
My initial brain correspondence is “oh well, that’s it – you won’t make it now. And have you realised how tired you are? You might as well just not try from here on – fancy a walk?”
And I’m tempted to stop and wait for a friend who isn’t far behind and roll in to the finish comfortably…tempted for about 2 seconds. I recall a recent conversation with a very seasoned runner who is one of Gabby’s regular running mates. He said that when you’re having one of those races – where it’s not going perfectly to plan, don’t throw away your goal altogether, simply reassess it and give yourself a slightly modified target to chase. And so I did just that.
My broadest goal for this race had been to be faster than any of my previous Burnie 10 times. That was in the bag, if I just kept going. So I fell back on my other goal which was to finish in a time that began with a 43 – in other words to sub 44 minutes. I listened to my breathing, my footfalls and concentrated on keeping that going at the current cadence.
I passed the 8km marker where the course is relatively flat and sheltered – a good place to make the deal with myself to keep the rhythm going, and besides, I really wasn’t keen on getting stuck behind the Skins guy again.
So the last km approaches and so do the ‘hills’ that are within it. The downhill mayhem of the first km of the race means that you’ve got to get back up there to the start/finish line. However, this is the last km of a race. Somehow you always find that something, that little bit of energy your brain had put aside for any emergencies out there; so I pumped the arms and the legs followed and before long I could see the finishing clock slowly ticking through the 43rd minute. I put on some pace and pushed what I could, and managed to lurch over the line 9 seconds shy of the 44th minute.
I grabbed a bottle of water from one volunteer and happily bowed my head to receive my 10th race medal for this event. I’ve made it home in 153rd place overall, and placed 13th Tasmanian female.
Revised goal was sorted. This was my fastest Burnie 10 to date, 1m 26s quicker than my previous course best.
At times having a tie to this race has prevented me from competing in other, arguably more exciting events, but the importance of this goal hasn’t left me, and that’s why I’ve stuck it to completion. It wasn’t just my first ever race as an adult, it was my first 10k, and the one that launched me into a life of running.
Train Mean | Live Clean | Run Free
Results by year: